Running your own business is no piece of cake. Neither is raising a family. These 10 single moms, all of whom have built successful companies, manage to do both with a mix of intelligence, creativity and sheer determination.
For some of these mompreneurs, starting a business was a means of creating a better life for their kids; for others, the kids themselves inspired the business idea.
All of them have learned critical lessons along the road to success. Check out their top 10 tips and get inspired.
1. Own your single-mom status.
Angela Benton is the founder and CEO of NewME. Since launching in 2011, NewME has accelerated over 300 startups and helped them raise over $17 million in venture capital funding. Having her first child at 16 has never slowed Benton down as she has made a name for herself in the world of design and technology, appearing on Ebony magazine’s Power 150 in 2010, Goldman Sachs’ 100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs of 2013 and Marie Claire’s 50 Women Who Rule in 2013.
Her advice: “Being a single mom is NOT a setback. Nestled somewhere in the pages of a storybook is the idea that entrepreneurs “hustle,” “crush it,” “grind” and whatever other word you can come up with to describe working really, really hard on your business 100 percent of the time. Out here in the real world we know that’s not true.
Don’t get me wrong, entrepreneurship is a ton of work. However don’t let the perception of this lifestyle count you out before you even count yourself in. Being a single mom comes with a wealth of skills that do well in entrepreneurship like: multitasking, creativity, managing and/or operating on a budget, and problem-solving to say the least. I don’t know about you but I’d put my money on someone with these skills rather than a new college grad.”
2. Ditch toxic influences.
In 2005, Lisa Stone co-founded BlogHer. Today, the female-focused media platform has an audience of 100 million. BlogHer also hosts the largest U.S. events for women who blog and use social media, and an award-winning social hub at BlogHer.com. Through BlogHer’s growth, Stone has learned how to succeed as an entrepreneur both as a young, divorced and single mom and now the working mother of a three-kid Brady bunch (ages 26, 18 and 14).
Her advice: “Ban toxic people from your life. You don’t have enough time already, right single mom or dad? So if you are living or working or worshipping around a toxic person or people who invade your confidence and bring you down, you MUST remove them from your life.”
3. Include your kids in your business.
Lauren Thom founded New Orleans-brand Fleurty Girl using $2,000 from her 2009 tax return. When the Saints went to the Super Bowl later that year, her t-shirts quickly became a must-have item for every New Orleans fan. Five years later, the single-mother of three now owns five locations and manages 30 employees.
Her advice: “You have to make family a part of your business… I’ve always considered my kids to be my board of directors, whether we’re moving or having them share a bedroom so we can open a store in our house. Make them a part of that journey. And that’s for any mom, not just single moms… Our kids are our reason to seek out a better life.”
4. Give yourself a break.
Karla Campos is a single mother of three and the founder of digital marketing training and education company Social Media Sass. Currently, she is working on Florida Social Con, a conference dedicated to bring affordable quality social media training to small business owners.
Her advice: “Entrepreneurship, just like motherhood, is not a 9-5 job. Some days I stay up until 3 am working and then have to do a 7 a.m. child drop off at school. Be kind to yourself. Make time for you even if it’s just to breathe and smell the air. Kids are going to make messes, they are going to eat your reports and download viruses to your computer. Your best weapon is a sense of humor. Enjoy your single mom entrepreneur life, wear the title proudly. We are basically super heroes.”
5. Remember: all you need is an idea and serious drive.
As a mother of three, Melissa Kieling struggled finding a product to keep her kids’ lunches cool and safe until lunchtime. So, she patented the idea for a lunch bag with a freezable gel built into its lining – an idea that grew into PackIt Personal Cooler. Five years later, PackIt has grown into a $14 million business with products that span lunch, wine, baby, picnic and shopping and distribution reaching more than 40 countries internationally.
Her advice: “Look for inspiration everywhere. Make note of all the things that frustrate you in your daily life, then research creative ways to address those inefficiencies. All it takes is an idea and an Internet connection to create a product that changes the world.
Don’t let inexperience stop you. My business résumé was basically limited to school bake sales. Not knowing which steps to take first nearly paralyzed me with fear. I overcame this by reaching out to other business owners who could connect me to experts in manufacturing, production and sales. Each key person I met shortened my learning curve and gave me confidence. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how other small business owners want to pay it forward and see new upstarts succeed.”
6. Focus on the positives.
Natalie Angelillo has over 20 years of experience shaping growth and development strategies, building brands, plotting new markets, and securing key venture capital. She is the founder and CEO of school fundraising startup, SwopBoard.com, and the founder and co-owner of blow dry salon Swink Style Bar. The mother of two has also held VP and C-level positions at Getty Images, PhotoDisc, and PhotoZone and is a regular advisor for startups and entrepreneurs.
Her advice: “There is enough guilt to go around for any parent, so I make a conscious effort to let it go and focus on the positives. I may have a hectic schedule, and, as a result, my children are learning how to be independent and self-reliant. They are getting an inside-look at how a startup works, by testing our app and coming into the office, which I know will benefit them in the long-term.”
7. Only date supportive romantic partners.
As a single mother with no money, Zhena Muzyka started her business by selling tea out of a push cart with a $3,000 loan from her family. Eventually, she created an empire that does more than $6 million in sales and it is now sold in over 10,000 locations across the country. Muzyka is also the author of Life by the Cup: Ingredients for a Purpose-filled Life of Bottomless Happiness & Limitless Success.
Her advice: “Don’t date competitive guys. This may seem like strange advice, but I can’t tell you how many dates I went on as a single mom entrepreneur where the guy subconsciously competed with my business and my child. It usually was date three or four when it would come out, but I was surprised at how many men want you all for themselves.
When dating, look for potential partners who love what you do and show it by changing their schedule to be there for you. When I found my husband, he made every effort to help me with Sage, he’d drive almost two hours to babysit so I could do marketing events, even though he had an executive position of his own. Not all partners will want to play a support role, so find someone who has a deep passion of their own and isn’t afraid to nurture it, they’ll allow you the same.”
8. Give up on finding the perfect work-life balance
Nusha Pelicano is a single mother of six, an Ironman competitor and a franchisee with Orange Leaf, the frozen-yogurt company. Pelicano opened her first Orange Leaf location in 2010. Today, she has five locations open and another store on the way.
Her advice: “Thinking about how I was going to do it all almost stopped me from starting my own company years ago. It seemed unreasonable to think that I’d be able to get everything done that I wanted to get done as an entrepreneur and still be the mother I wanted to be to my three kids.
The truth is you can do it all if you just change what your definition of balance is. There are times where my business gets more attention than my kids and vice versa. In the end I like to believe that is all balances out. Part of being an entrepreneur is being comfortable with changing direction quickly. Needless to say as a single mother and entrepreneur you’ll get a ton of use out of that skill! So relax, have faith, and take it one day at a time.”
9. Slay the comparison critic.
When Brook Eddy visited India in 2002, she came away with two things: an understanding of Bhakti, or devotion through social action, and a love for masala chai. The two came together in Bhakti Chai, a sustainable and socially conscious beverage company.
Her advice: “I used to imagine how men had so much more time and ease managing companies. I fell into a mind wrap trap of comparing myself to men who had assistants to deal with the nonstop scheduling, travel, meetings, reports, and presentations – how productive! Or the men with wives to care for children and manage all the shopping/laundry/carpools/cooking/pets/school/homework/sport registrations – how helpful! Or the men with industry connections brimming with money and influence – how lucky!
But this was just my judgment, my assumptions, and my method of feeling sorry for myself by sinking into distraction… We are all pulled in 100 different directions daily – even men with teams, wives, or connections are shackled daily with stress. You could similarly compare yourself to mothers with free time that and are not starting companies or to entrepreneurs without kids or with supportive wealthy husbands – but it’s not going to change the fact that you have to work harder, and smarter, and longer.
The “poor me” mentality only serves procrastination, self-doubt, and a negative thought loop – not our greater purpose or our nobler ability to trust. Furthermore, those added stressors (or ‘influencers’ as I sometimes refer to my ten year old twins) may in fact be the very inspiration for your next product line, marketing initiative, or social media campaign.”
10. Find the right schedule for you.
Sherry Colbourne is a 20-year veteran of the Canadian high tech sector. As an expat and social media strategist working in Oman, she combines her well-honed business development skills with social media to help clients grow their businesses and expand their reach. She also works with a number of Omani incubators to mentor some of Oman’s bright and upcoming entrepreneurs.
Her advice: “Mompreneurs, more than other entrepreneurs, need to be disciplined in their relationship with time. When I was a single mom with a growing business, I would wake up at 5 a.m. so I’d be in the right frame of mind to deal with my then teenage children. Morning conversation and breakfast provided the energy we needed for the day and a sit-down dinner provided the engagement we needed to stay connected. I found the natural rhythms in my business and used them to schedule appointments and work out. There were no marathon workouts for this girl, but half an hour on a treadmill can go a long way to clearing your head and reclaiming your energy. Find what works for you and make yourself one of your priorities!
This was first published on entrepreneur.com